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Q: In an ideal scenario the whole world would be vegan. But what about the people who live in the Arctic, Iceland and other extremely cold places, where --they say-- alternatives to fur would let them freeze to death. Do people in the Artic have a moral get-out-of-jail-free card? People are everywhere, even where, in my opinion they should not be at all! Could we just leave some pristine places untouched by our footsteps?


Dan Cudahy:


As a mountain climber with lots of experience in extreme temperatures and wind chills (wind chills down to -60F / -51C) successfully relying only on synthetic clothing for warmth, I can assure you that fur and feathers are not necessary…. Many alpinists prefer synthetic insulation over feathers in extreme high altitude conditions (some of the coldest on Earth) because feathers, like cotton, are worse than useless if they get wet.


Again, fur and feathers are completely unnecessary….Vegan food can be shipped to the Arctic and stored as easily, or more so, than animal products (things freeze well there). In short, I see no reason why someone could not be a vegan in extreme climates in the 21st century…. Finally, I agree that there really should be a good reason for living in an extreme climate, even if you are living as a vegan.

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i would say, and admittedly it is not based on anything other than my limited knowledge and assumptions, that many of those that live in extreme climates do less damage to their surroundings than the rest of us do through things like pollution causing global warming. However this is restricted to environmental damage rather than non-human animal rights abuses. although I think there is a good argument to say that those that do not live in parts of the world that have extreme climates commit non-human animal rights abuses through pollution leading to global warming which leads to habitat degradation for many animals, for example the polar bear. in light of this why shouldn’t people live in those kind of places? Personally I can't see any value in its self of having some places un touched by humans. But having said that there is probably a good argument for having most places un touched by humans! :)


I think Dan's answer is a good one, overall, but I'm not sure about the statement "there really should be a good reason for living in an extreme climate." You can't expect a person who's lived in a certain location all her life to pack up and move in the absence of any real opportunities. Ideally there would be different vegan literature tailored to the needs of people facing all kinds of situations and living in all kinds of climates (and in some cases living in poverty, because there are so few jobs in some parts of the far north).


You could also turn the question around to reveal the stereotype behind it--as Roger says, people living in Arctic climates consume energy and use high-tech equipment just like everyone else. And many people do find the word Eskimo offensive ... but the questioner doesn't care about any of that. For the person asking the question, it's a game and that's all it is. If you can't come up with an instant go-vegan plan that fits the needs of each and every human on the planet, you lose. And you can't judge the questioner--who probably doesn't live in poverty in the far north and probably never met anyone who did. If I had the magic words to persuade such a person, I'd register the copyright and sell it for money.


What about an answer like this? "I've never lived in a northern climate and haven't experienced the same challenges a person in a northern climate probably would, but if a person who lived there wanted to go vegan and asked me for information, I'd do my best to help. Have you ever lived in the Arctic? Do you have any ideas about what resources they might need that aren't available yet?"

I don't have personal experience with this, but I wonder if modern synthetics are easily available to everyone.  There may be places where it's much easier & cheaper to get animal products than to order high tech clothes, etc. Even in this instance, it's too easy to generalize.  I think the status quo needs to be challenged, but more from the inside.  I'd rather support my friend who actually lives in such a culture than make pronouncements myself.

I don't like to see too much of an effort trying to prove that every single person on earth can easily go vegan, right now, no matter what their socio-economic, phsyical/mental health status, etc.  I think we should all do our utmost, and support everyone else in their efforts, and reconfigure our world such that everyone can easily be vegan.

Dan seems to be equating his "mountain climbing" with living life as an Eskimo (Inuit, Yupik or Aleut), which is not only presumptuous, but arrogant.

Dan's response to this question seems poorly thought through and to make little sense as a practical matter. 

I'm not sure that the other animals Dan is responsible for killing in his every day life are less significant than the other animals killed by these people he seems to feel superior to in their every day life. 

I also wonder of the environmental damage, and other damage caused by Dan (for example) as opposed to those Dan is speaking of. (Great point, Oliver!) 

Dan also suggests there should be a good reason for living in an "extreme climate". Who determines what defines an "extreme climate"? Those who live in the Bahamas may suggest Colorado to be an "extreme climate" and vice versa. 

Brooke and Susan, I agree with both of you, but in Dan's defence I think he's avoiding the trap of conceding "it's OK for some human societies to use animals, as long as they do it in a respectful way" or something similar as the questioner seems to want. He's not writing off the deaths of animals in the Arctic as morally neutral, and I think he's right to stick to his principles.


But he might have added that the big changes are going to have to come from within those societies ... for most of us it's a lot more effective to work for changes closer to home. We should be prepared to support and help activists in the Arctic if and when they ever ask us to, but without an invitation it's premature to start loading the helicopter with vegan cupcakes and copies of RWT. (I'm not saying Dan is planning to do that, but in the questioner's mind it may seem like a choice between "it's OK, I don't care what Eskimos eat" and "I'll start loading the helicopter today").

Hah! Is it EVER premature to load the helicopters with copies of RWT? 

I thought there was a "Like" button.  Oh, it's just for the initial post. Ah well.

i guess its easy for a white guy in a modern city to say whats 'completely unnecessary' for native peoples living in fishing villages but i guess he'd be wrong too.  

aa yes certanly complex. i fear i may be slightly guilty of an idealised view of life in the artic. 

Peoples living in the Arctic any on many of the Islands in the Pacific Ocean have a diet that is mostly the flesh of non-human animals because the climate will not allow the growing of crops or there isn't room to grow them. I do not think that they get out of jail free card though, but these peoples do not have a choice about where they live and I think we have to be sensitive and creative about bringing them under the Vegan umbrella - which is what we all want to happen.  It is a bit glib to say they cannot live in their homelands! 

This is again another example of trying to choose between the least damage rather than the obvious "right" answer (as are many other ethical dilemmae.)

I agree it's unrealistic to expect someone to pick up and leave their place of birth, even if there were opportunities made available to those people. Though I don't happen to feel any connection to cultural traditions and homeland, the vast majority of people seem to, and seem to be extremely distressed if you take it away from them.


I have heard annecdotally that crops can not grow in the high north (which I don't doubt) and that shipping vegetables to them is extremely expensive (i also don't doubt this) so perhaps we in areas where vegetables do grow have a responsibility to share. Maybe we need to consider making it easier for those people to adopt alternatives to dependency on animal exploitation.


I'm just thinking outloud.

I don't think they will have a choice. Global warming is melting the ice and many small islands will, if projected sea level changes are on target, end up under the sea. There are not that many places left on the planet that will be bale to just go on as before.  Having said that, the Inuit could happily survive on a tailored vegan diet. This in fact may be an ideal time to see if they will transition given the depletion of their natural food sources.

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